The Casablanca Years
(Universal Music Group/
Amid the oft-storied annals of the Hard Rock genre, few groups effectively epitomized the antithesis of the traditional Hard Rock motif than Washington, D.C.-born Glam Rock icons Angel. Initially 'discovered' by Kiss bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons and subsequently signed to Casablanca Records, they issued their self-titled debut in 1975. Following shortly thereafter with Helluva Band (1976), On Earth As It Is In Heaven (1977) and White Hot (1978) prior to the departure of original bassist Mickie Jones. Derided by the press (and Frank Zappa via the satirical “Punky's Whips”) throughout their existence, they imploded shortly after releasing the Pop-orientated Sinful (1979) and the in-concert testament Live Without A Net (1980), leaving a legion of fans only begging for more. Now, with the highly-anticipated issuance of The Casablanca Years, a mammoth seven disc compilation thoroughly chronicling their mid to late '70's heyday, the group's history is finally on display for all.
On the truly brilliant The Casablanca Years (2018), an expertly assembled seven disc, seventy-three track (!) collection of Progressive Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the hard-driving lament “Tower” the stereotype-laden--albeit highly-effective--“Rock & Rollers” (taken from Angel), the quasi-conceptual opus “The Fortune” and the playful, Fusion-tinged gem “Dr. Ice” (taken from Helluva Band) immediately command the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Presenting the bulk of their recorded output (e.g. everything released prior to their 'comeback' In the Beginning, 1999) in re-Mastered format, showcases the group's penchant for combining grace and melody with sheer power. Delivering what would become a bountiful source of inspiration for a legion of like-minded artists, the strains of their efforts negate their age by somehow remaining as crisp and fresh as when they were released.
Continuing with the sultry “Big Boy (Let's Do It Again)” the prototypical Power Ballad “You're Not Fooling Me” (taken from On Earth As It Is In Heaven) the delightfully swaggering “L.A. Lady” and the fist-pumping anthemic “Lovers Live On” (taken from Sinful), the airtight--to say the very least--combinations of vocalist Frank DiMino, guitarist Punky Meadows (a.k.a. Edwin Meadows), keyboardist Gregg Giuffria (later of Giuffria and House Of Lords), bassists Mickie Jones and Felix Robinson (later of White Lion and The Drunk Unkles) and drummer Barry Brandt steamroll ahead like the well-oiled machine they so obviously had become. Wasting little--if any--time engulfing the listener amid a veritable avalanche of shimmering, AOR-fueled Hard Rock, the group fires on all cylinders, reminding us of their more-than-considerable lyrical and compositional capabilities. Yielding a cornucopia of nostalgia-inducing treasures, the group surges ahead with each 'new' archived offering.
An absolute must-have for every genuine and sincere Angel enthusiast, other standouts, including sweat-soaked live variations of the David Bowie/Mott The Hoople standard “All The Young Dudes” and “Got Love If You Want It” (from the in-concert Live Without A Net), a soaring rendition of hook-laden The Left Banke classic “Walk Away Renee” and the Disco-influenced “20th Century Foxes” (from the Foxes soundtrack), only reaffirm the group's once ironclad reputation as a bona fide creative force not to be ignored. Maintaining a 'refreshingly exhaustive' focus on both their already well-established highlights and rare, hard-to-find alternate versions, the collection is fortified throughout by liner notes from acclaimed Classic Rock scribe Dave Reynolds (Kerrang!, Metal Forces, Metal Hammer). Although far too detailed to thoroughly examine within such an limited forum, the truly mighty The Casablanca Years succeeds by offering the hits, the misses and almost everything between.
But is it worth it? Ultimately, that will depend on your particular point(s) of view. While our recognition and obvious appreciation for The Casablanca Years is curiously dilatory (it was officially released on 09/14/18), the majority--if not all--of the digitally re-Mastered, rarity-laden wares contained herein remain entirely noteworthy for both die-hard completists and clueless newcomers alike as they offer the opportunity to immerse themselves within the minutia of the group's sprawling discographies. Love 'em or loathe 'em, this is quite possibly as good as 'Box Set' compilations can and ever will get. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a truly all-encompassing, detail-orientated collection that delivers the proverbial goods without the ineffective, largely unnecessary bloat that has plagued it's over-reaching contemporaries and predecessors, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane cure-all for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
The Casablanca Years (2018)
Live Without A Net (1980)
White Hot (1978)
On Earth As It Is In Heaven (1977)
Helluva Band (1976)
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